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Monday, July 1, 2013
Cruz has room for improvement

By Dan Riccio, ESPN Stats & Information


Geoff Burke/USA Today SportsVictor Cruz provides lots of reasons to celebrate, but he has some flaws to work on, too.
Wide receiver Victor Cruz calmed the nerves of New York Giants fans when he signed a restricted free agent tender this summer and now reports are that he and the Giants will have a deal done before training camp begins.

Though Cruz has performed well the last few seasons, The Giants may be looking for something more from him.

It would be silly to deny Cruz is one of the most productive wideouts in the NFL. He is top ten in receptions, touchdowns and yards since 2011, not to mention he has a championship ring to his name already.

Cruz has a few faults, but the difference between production and efficiency shows that he has left opportunities on the field.

Here are some areas in which there is room for Cruz to get better.

Drops
Cruz had some trouble hanging on to the football last season.

In 2012, Cruz had the most dropped passes and the second-highest drop percentage among Giants with at least 10 targets. Only now-departed tight end Martellus Bennett dropped the ball at a higher rate than Cruz.

In the NFL, Cruz ranked 37th in drop percentage among 44 receivers with 100 targets.

Stretching the Field
With Hakeem Nicks on the roster, Victor Cruz has not needed to be a consistent deep threat.
Hakeem Nicks
Nicks
Nicks led the Giants with an average target depth of 12.4 yards downfield last year. In fact, of the five Giant wide receivers with at least 10 targets, Cruz stretched the field the least with a 10.4-yard average target depth.

Along with being targeted closer to the line of scrimmage, Cruz struggled to create yards after contact, a helpful skill in the slot.

Of the nine Giants with at least 10 targets, Cruz finished last on the team in yards gained after contact per reception. He averaged 0.7 yards after contact per reception which tied for 37th in the NFL last season among 44 receivers with 100 targets.

Looking ahead
Cruz struggled down the stretch last season, with 88 combined yards in the final three games, the worst stretch of his career

The Giants traveled a similar road in 2011 with Steve Smith. Like Cruz, Smith was a Pro Bowl receiver that won a ring in New York. He eventually signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles where he caught just 11 passes in 2011, struggled with injuries, and retired from professional football after spending 2012 with the St. Louis Rams.

The Giants appear to have elected to stick it out with Cruz. We'll see if this proves to be a smart decision.